Editor’s Pick: The lost years of Michael Nunn


Michael Nunn spent 16 years in jail for his half in a $200 drug deal. He’s making an attempt to take advantage of of the time he has left, writes Chris Walker

THERE is not any bitterness in Michael Nunn. He’s a free man after spending 16 lengthy years in varied American prisons. Caught shopping for cocaine for $200 from an spy at a time when Lennox Lewis was nonetheless the world heavyweight champion, his sentence totalled solely two years lower than his whole boxing profession. Nunn, to his credit score, blames nobody however himself.

“My mistakes fall only on me so I deserved my punishment,” states Nunn.

His path to self-destruction is just not the acquainted story of woe. There was no tough childhood, no lack of assist from his household and associates. Loved and nurtured by his late mom in Davenport, Iowa, Nunn felt blessed as he took his first steps to turning into the midwestern state’s solely world boxing champion. 

An Olympic hopeful as an newbie, Nunn – the winner of three Iowa Golden Gloves championships – didn’t qualify for the 1984 Games after shedding within the trials to eventual silver medallist and future Hall of Famer, Virgil Hill. When not competing, Nunn would spend summers in Detroit when Emanuel Steward’s Kronk Gym was to boxing what Studio 54 was to the thriving New York disco scene. His schooling paid off when he gained world titles in two weight courses as an expert. But the person and champion he turned counted for nothing when he was busted in the summertime of 2002.

“It was a mistake and there’s no one to blame but myself,” Nunn tells Boxing News. “I used to be raised proper, each at dwelling and thru my boxing profession, however that also didn’t cease me from making foolish errors in my life.

“It was so long ago now that I can’t even begin to remember what my reasons were for getting involved in stuff like that, but it’s all down to myself and I ain’t got no issue admitting that it hurts to let down the amount of people in my life that went out of their way, who sacrificed their own time, in trying to make me be the best that I could be.” 

Despite his identify not registering with the trendy boxing fan the best way Roy Jones Jnr or Bernard Hopkins do, Nunn was at one time held in comparable regard to the fighters that may dominate the 160lbs division all through the Nineties. Approaching that decade, Nunn turned IBF champion by stopping former newbie rival, Frank Tate. His reign, which started in the summertime of 1988, lasted lower than three years however Nunn – then thought to be one of the easiest within the sport, pound-for-pound – secured the scalps of high fighters like Iran Barkley, Marlon Starling, Sumbu Kalambay and Donald Curry alongside the best way.

Michael Nunn
Holly Stein/Allsport

In what was speculated to be a triumphant May 1991 homecoming, Nunn – seemingly coasting to victory – was damage within the eleventh spherical by a younger James Toney and he by no means recovered. Although dominant in opposition to the Michigan man for a lot of the bout, Nunn unravelled when Toney lastly discovered the shot to dramatically change the course of the battle. His streak because the world’s greatest middleweight was over. 

If Nunn speaks of his crime and punishment with matter-of-fact realism, there’s some remorse when he seems again on that interval of his boxing profession. Two names specifically obtained away.

“I wanted Sugar Ray [Leonard] or Tommy Hearns,” remembers Nunn. “They have been the massive cash fights for any middleweight on the time and I believed I used to be one of the fighters who would’ve gotten a possibility to place myself in opposition to each guys.

“I knew Tommy a lot from my time in Detroit with him and Emanuel Steward, and we would’ve put on a good show for the people. It’s the same with Leonard, another brilliant fighter, but I was coming up when they were perhaps heading out. The Goossen family looked after me then and they did all they could to get those two fights made. I would’ve won and I would’ve got paid.” 

After the loss to Toney, 168lbs beckoned for Michael. Once once more he was topped world champion, this time profitable the WBA title, courtesy of a decent factors win over Panama’s Victor Cordoba in September 1992.

Nunn loved a stable however unspectacular reign with wins over revered campaigners similar to Crawford Ashley and Merqui Sosa. His run was ended by the best margin when he endured a break up determination loss two years later to Steve Little in a scrappy bout on the Nigel Benn-Henry

Wharton undercard in London. It can be the final time that Nunn may name himself a world champion. His profession, although removed from over, began to slowly decline.

He would lose to Frankie Liles (who had dethroned Little) in a bid to regain his title and got here up quick on the playing cards once more in 1998 after an honest run of type at light-heavyweight secured a shot at Graciano Rocchigiani for the vacant WBC belt in Germany. The subsequent time his identify made the headlines it might be for all of the improper causes.

Sentenced to a staggering 24 years in jail following an undercover sting designed to show drug trafficking relationship again to 1993, Nunn’s harsh punishment was broadly lambasted on the time of his sentencing in 2004. Back then the fighter insisted the witnesses who testified in opposition to him have been prisoners who did so simply to get their very own sentences decreased. Nunn refused to conform in the identical means. 

“When the police and the government got you sat down then you best have something to tell them,” Nunn explains. “I wasn’t going to exit that means [as an informant]. I’ve at all times been true to myself and I’ve at all times held myself accountable for my actions. The truth I used to be in there with these folks and simply determined to maintain my mouth shut was by no means going to work out nicely for me.

“It wasn’t the sentence I expected but I’ve always had to learn quickly to deal with whatever is thrown at me. My mistake was my mistake and it was only myself who was going to deal with the consequences from it.” 

Positioned in jail and an atmosphere utterly alien to him, Nunn the prisoner was far faraway from “Second To” Nunn, the flashy left-hander who had lit up the battle halls of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The man who had knocked out the seemingly unstoppable Kalambay, who had elevated Toney to the game’s highest echelon, was walled in with the some of essentially the most harmful criminals in America.

“It made no difference to anyone inside jail that I was Michael Nunn,” he says. “I’m six-feet-one, 180lbs, and I understand how to battle so I appreciated my possibilities if bother ever introduced itself. Jail is a harmful place and yow will discover your self in a multitude simply spending a weekend in there so are you able to think about the stuff I needed to put up with being in there for 16 years? 

“You generally is a gang chief, that don’t imply nothing. You could be the boss of the mafia, that don’t imply nothing. You can have a lot energy and affect on the skin of jail, however whenever you get in there, everyone seems to be equal. It meant nothing that I used to be a former world champion.

“Okay, my preventing [skills] helped me out after I was inside jail after I needed to take care of issues that may typically come my means, however that also doesn’t imply that I couldn’t be obtained at. Most of my time in there glided by event-free, and I simply needed to focus on my time, however the sooner you settle for your sentence then it turns into that little bit simpler. 

“I was a fighter who just wanted to make his mum proud and look where I ended up. Jail was never in my plans. Breaking the law was never in my plans. I made some bad mistakes and paid for it with a big chunk of my life. I missed my children grow up. I missed my mum so much. I blew many years of my life from this mistake.” 

With political reforms permitting Nunn to enchantment his sentence, he secured an early launch in August 2019. In 2020, Nunn participated in a kickboxing battle on the age of 57 and was victorious in opposition to former MMA star, Pat Mileitch. Despite his advancing years, Nunn is contemplating a comeback of types after the success of the latest Mike Tyson v Roy Jones exhibition and subsequent speak of a Legends’ League. 

“I’m not hurting anybody, not even myself. I’m not a deluded fighter who thinks I can hang with these younger guys. No way. There looks like there could be a market out there for ex-fighters like you seen with Tyson and Jones so if an opportunity is there for me then I’d be crazy not to look at it. It was only the other day I was the on the phone to Tommy Hearns [about a contest]. Maybe you will finally get to see that fight after all.” 

Nunn by no means stopped being a fighter. Although jail quickly took that tag away from him, one can’t blame him for desperately wanting it again.

Nunn on the opposite fighters that obtained away

“I fought in a time the place the UK fighters had one thing of a reputation in America. The guys round my weight have been Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn, and American fighters have been very conscious in regards to the variety of enterprise they have been doing within the UK.

“I came over to the UK a few times and always had a great time when I was there but coming over for a fight with Eubank or Benn would’ve been a dream for me. The UK had some of the best fans in boxing and I wish I could’ve come over to test myself against the best guys there. I love the UK and they still got some of the best fighters today.”

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